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Chapter Four


"Hugh!" Lore screamed, the fear in her voice echoing the terror she felt in Hugh's own.

"Lore! What is it?" demanded Kain.

"Something's happened to Hugh! He cried out. I don't know what it is..." she stammered, feeling her pulse rise. "I don't know," she said again, this time more quickly but with confidence. "But I'm going down there to find out."


"I know, we're going to loose contact," she said, pausing to stuff the maruera gum into her mouth. "But whatever it is that's going on down there, Hugh doesn't sound like he's in any shape to do anything on his own. He's not replying to my hailings!"

"That's it!" Kain growled as she strapped the rubber-rimmed can over her mouth. "I'm coming down too."

"We didn't bring a waterproof microphone for you though. You'll have to stay above the waterline," she warned him.

"Better than nothing," he replied.

And with that, Lore gave a final check to her sword and dove into the water below.

She fought back the urge to gasp as her body submerged in the cold darkness below. Forcing herself to stay on task, she swung her flashlight down in front of her and glanced around. She vaguely controlled her descent with measured pumps of her arms and legs. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She caught sight of the breach in the tunnel that must have let the water in, but she only paid it a moment's notice. The entrance to the control room lay right below her.

Lore drew her sword and planted both feet firmly against the wall opposite the door. Gathering her strength, she coiled herself against the wall, and then sprang forward into the control room.

Hugh knelt before the controls, placing the Neishield between him and his assailant. Dark purplish blotches floated out from behind his shield, turning red in the glaring light of his discarded flashlight.

Now just within the glow of Hugh's flashlight was a spectre class robot. The circular droid possessed a pair of wide-ranged needle guns. That in itself wasn't bothersome though. The thought of being struck through by foot long thick needles was.

And Lore cursed the fact that they were underwater. Hurting machines with anything other than heavy firearms was difficult enough without the water slowing their movements down. Hugh's mace, which depended on its crushing abilities for damage, would be nearly useless. The water rendered their foi techniques harmless. And thu would fry the whole lot of them.

"Hugh!" Lore exclaimed, executing a slow wave of her sword as she drifted to a halt within the room.

The purple-haired biologist glanced up at her, more from her movement than her voice. "Lore..." she heard him say.

"Hugh! Attack it with your zan or gra techniques! I'll hit it from behind!" she shouted, forgetting for a moment that her voice was being carried through a microphone rather than through the water.

He jerked his head in agreement as he blocked a new barrage of needles from the spectre.

The machine whirred, assessing the presence of a second intruder. Its aim shifted across its bulbous frame to scan this new entity.

Hugh propelled himself to his feet, lowering the Neishield to afford himself a better view as Lore darted off to one side, evading the machine's turrets. He focused his thoughts, hurriedly forcing them into line. The connection snapped together within him, and a warmth spread from his chest to the palm of his right hand.

Lore batted her sword against the spectre's thick casing. She leaped to the top of the machine's rotund form as it launched a stream of needles. The spectre tipped to one side, raising its turrets as Lore sprang from it towards the ceiling.

Hugh's eyes narrowed, all thoughts directed at the offending machine. He raised his right hand as Lore jumped clear. And he could feel an intense pressure building.

The spectre twitched as part of its casing crumpled into itself beneath the increased gravity field. It let out a beep and righted itself. Its turrets swiveled to face Hugh again.

The biologist raised his shield as Lore gave a wordless shout and landed forcefully on the rear edge of the spectre's domed top. It swung back in a wide arc, scattering the ceiling with needle fire above Hugh's head.

Lore cried out again as she slammed the edge of her sword into a rift torn into the spectre's hull from Hugh's gigra technique. She gritted her teeth as she tried burying her sword even deeper into its machinery.

"Lore! Be careful not to expose any of the circuits to the water!" Hugh shouted.

She growled a response. "I am being careful!" Lore wrenched her sword in a pumping motion, trying to widen the rift as the spectre swung itself into a circle in an attempt to throw her off.

Her sword slipped free with a sudden twist and Lore flung herself away. "Finish the blasted thing, Hugh!"

Hugh nodded, calling up the strength for another gigra.

The spectre swiveled its turrets at Hugh, but the titanium tubing crumpled in on itself. The machine lowered its domed top towards the concentrating biologist, swirling up a froth behind it as its systems built up power.

It launched itself at Hugh and the biologist raised his shield, bracing himself for impact. But Lore had recovered herself, and speared the spectre through its propulsion systems with her laconian blade.

The machine listed to one side, pulling Lore with it. And then drifted motionlessly to the floor.

Lore sighed and collapsed on top of it.

"Lore, Hugh, are you two all right down there?" Kain crackled over their headsets. "I'm finally down to the waterline and it sounds like you guys were fighting up a storm!"

"A spectre," Hugh panted, head still reeling from his visions only moments ago. "We were fighting a spectre."

"A spectre?" Kain repeated.

"Yes..." Hugh tilted his head back as the world whirled around him. "A spectre." But he no longer meant the robot. "A ghost..."

When Kain asked Hugh for an explanation, the biologist nor longer listened.

Lore pushed herself up and off the inert chunk of machinery and floated over to Hugh. She peered at him, the wild look in his eyes begging her not to say a word about his condition. Although she didn't know what bothered him so much, she nodded and landed lightly on the floor.

"Don't worry about it, Kain," she told him. "The fight got us a little out of sorts." Lore looked down at Hugh's leg, noticing the redness around it. "It was just a spectre class drone," she continued. "Mother Brain probably left it here to guard the place. And then it attacked when Hugh came in. Hugh's been injured too."

"It's not much," the biologist said quickly, reaching down to touch his wound. "Nothing a little healing couldn't cure." His gires technique began closing up the wicked gash even as he spoke. Soon only a scab and the soreness remained.

Kain sighed. "Well, since you guys are all right, why don't we get back to business? We've got to stay on task, and you've used up a lot of air fighting that thing."

"Why don't you just give us another piece of gum?" Lore asked.

"We can't make any more. In case you hadn't noticed, the power's out!" he replied testily. "We can't afford to waste this gum just in case this attempt fails. We already know that for some reason the reservoir's empty. Now we need to find out why!"

"Okay, okay," she grumbled. "I won't waste my breath arguing with you then. It certainly won't benefit either of us."

Kain chuckled. "That's the spirit!"

Lore huffed and frowned. "Okay, so what do we gotta do?"

"Yes, please," added Hugh, regaining a sense of composure. "I think we've both recovered ourselves enough to be of use."

"All right. Hugh, go back over to the control gauges by the window. Lore, that drone must been independently powered from the rest of Mother Brain's system. Since I don't think you guys have any light down there, I'm guessing that the spectre is battery-powered. See if that battery's still intact. If it is, retrieve it! We can use all we can get!"

"Right!" she said in acknowledgment as she pushed herself back towards the spectre.

"Now, Hugh," Kain asked through his communicator, "you are absolutely sure that the reservoir gauges are pointing all the way to the left?"

"Yes, I am," he replied, visually double-checking the dials.

"All right. Now I need you to check if the central aqueduct is open. It's possible that Mother Brain's final command was to close off the power to Mota. After all, she warned us that we would have a hard life ahead of us. It may have been a threat."

Hugh nodded, forgetting for a moment that Kain couldn't see him. "Okay, so where do I look?"

"As I was saying earlier when the spectre attacked you: look at the control set two panels to the right of your current position. There's a... aw crap! I forgot!" Kain spat. "We need the power to be working!"

Hugh drifted over and found the monitor in question that Kain began cursing about. No power. They couldn't turn it on to check.

Meanwhile, Lore wriggled through the spectre's titanium casing towards a giant box within its dome. The case had to be the location of the battery. "You could power a hovercraft with the size of this thing," she grumbled, leveling her sword against the metal covering in preparation to open it.

"Wait!" said Kain.

Lore paused.

"You suddenly realized she was going to open that battery compartment while underwater?" asked Hugh mildly. "I should have thought of it myself. She might have fried me..." Despite the former danger, his voice remained even.

"No," Kain said. "I mean, it's good that she stopped for that reason, but what I meant was, she said it was a gigantic battery, right?"

"Yeah, the compartment's a square meter at least," Lore replied, lowering her blade. "It'll barely fit through the doorway as is. That's why I thought I'd take it out of its case."

"I don't suppose we could..." Kain muttered. "No, that wouldn't work either; not while we're underwater."

"You think we can hook up the battery to the computer to get it working?" Hugh asked.

"Yes, but there's no way. It'll likely short out while we connect it. Not to mention whoever tries hooking it up is bound to get electrocuted! We probably don't have the proper cables either."

Lore sighed. "It seems like the only thing we're getting out of this is this big ol' battery."

"Better than nothing," said Kain. "We can return later when we have the proper equipment. I'll see if I can put together a pump to remove the water the next time we visit. And now that we know it is safe down there, I'm coming down with you guys next time!"

"I have no objection." Hugh chuckled as Lore swung her flashlight around the control room, just to be sure that no lurking dangers remained.

"Good," the blue-haired Palman replied.

The raven-haired girl lifted her sword again, this time with the intent to pry the casing free rather than break through it. Hugh propelled himself towards here to offer his assistance. Together the two pulled the battery compartment free of the rest of the machinery and pushed it towards the battered doorway.

"We're coming up now," said Hugh. "And get ready to help us up with this thing! Lithium or not, it's gonna be heavy getting this thing out of the water."

"All right," came Kain's reply.

* * * * *

The trio barely made it back to the jet scooter with the battery. They would have had to make two trips if Lore and Hugh didn't agree to wear their weapons and armor through the swim. That spread the load enough that Lore could travel with what remained of both sacks, leaving the men to hurry with the battery before the salt water could corrode the casing.

Strapping the battery to the jet scooter was an adventure in itself. But Kain was adamant. Without any central power running, batteries would be all that they would have in the way of energy. And with depleting supplies, scavenging was becoming a necessity. "Can't afford to waste it," Kain said. "We'll never know when we'll get the power back up."

Hugh and Lore did not dispute him.

And all three collapsed wearily into the hovercraft over two hours since their egress from Climatrol. Algo hung low in the sky, beginning to stream purple bands across the heavens and redden the sea.

Kain dug eagerly beneath his seat and triumphantly pulled out a box of rations. He snickered, pretending to hoard them from Hugh and Lore. The raven-haired girl honestly didn't care right now, even if the three of them had missed lunch. Hugh on the other hand playfully shoved Kain, and after a few teasing words, got him to give him a couple of multi-grain fruit bars.

Lore hung her arms wearily out of the cabin and stared at Algo's fading light. It had been a long day of had work. And all they got was a stupid battery, big though it was. Mother Brain wasn't kidding about having a hard life ahead of them! But they would work it out. They had to!

Hugh suggested starting on back, and Kain agreed, stowing his food away once more.

Lore pulled her arms in as Kain started up the scooter and lowered the windshield around them.

The jet scooter gave a reassuring putt-putt sound as Kain started it up and turned towards the northern beaches of the continent. If nothing else worked in this world, at least the jet scooter did. And it did not fail to return the exhausted trio back to the shore north of Paseo.

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